When it comes to inventions, the African American community has made many items, foods, and tools that are in circulation to this day. As we continue to celebrate Black History Month, a Jacksonville man hopes his own invention will become part of history and save lives in the process.
Four years ago, Ronnie Fulcher said he had a “nervous” encounter with law enforcement when he was pulled over after dropping a friend in Jacksonville just before midnight. The reason for the stop? Fulcher was told he was from a high crime area and that the officer who pulled him over was also nervous. With how dark it was about the statement Fulcher said it was given, his nerves immediately shot up.
The typical “license, registration, proof of insurance” routine was carried out when Fulcher said tension increased even more when he reached for his glove box to obtain the documents.
At the end of the stop, Fulcher was relieved to find it was a simple misunderstanding, and he was able to spend the rest of his night. He also knew that things could have been different.
After looking back, he began to think that there had to be some other way of doing a traffic obstruction in a consistently positive way. If it were immediately understood that neither the driver nor the officer pose a threat to the other, this would open the clear line of communication and not misinterpret the first few minutes of the stop.
“I thought after it all happened there had to be an easier way to get your driver’s license, registration, etc, and it didn’t have to look like you were reaching for something else in your car,” said Fulcher. “I can understand what it’s like to be a cop and you might be dealing with someone who is on a third strike. But what about someone who hasn’t done anything and is just reaching for something they’re asking for?”
His idea? A device called Pullover Pal. Fulcher explains that his device is a way to reduce negative police interactions when it comes to drivers being run over. The pullover Pal is a pouch that fits over the window when rolled down and shows the documentation officers’ essential requirements during the stop.
After looking for similar ways to display the driver information, Fulcher couldn’t find anything related to what he had come up with. He mentioned that some would have their documents in a plastic bag, but the officer would have to fumble through the bag to get them with the driver who has yet to hand them over. The display on the window allows the driver to keep his hands in a safe position while talking to the officer.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, residents who were not fatally threatened or violated during their last police-initiated contact or traffic accident decreased slightly from 2015 to 2018. Although the numbers fell, the percentage difference between whites and African Americans remained the same.
The statistics refer to people who are 16 years of age or older. Whites (26%) had more contact with the police than blacks (21%), Hispanics (19%), or people of other races (20%).
However, blacks and Hispanics (5% each) were more likely than whites (2%) or people of other races (2%) to experience at least one type of violence during their last contact with the police. Types of violence include threats of violence, handcuffs, pushing, grabbing, hitting, kicking, and pointing or shooting a weapon. Fulcher’s original purpose was to reduce arrests, injuries, and deaths from a possible disruption in communications.
These statistics are mirrored across the country, and the overall decline is the result of reduced weight training, which the Jacksonville Police Department has hired in its own way. The department has made efforts to meet with the community, which in turn has changed the way citizens view the police.
In 2012, JPD used 103 phone calls, as reported by The Daily News. Due to various training courses and a review of the procedures, this number had fallen to 23 by 2018. Two years later, when the country paused in the last election, JPD and the city of Jacksonville showed their efforts across the state on UNC television of the protest, calling for reforms across the country.
CONNECTED: JPD’s community efforts on UNC-TV are ongoing
Others who attended the show were delighted with the positive change but understood that there was still much to be done. Fulcher realizes the same problems that he has adjusted over the years to answer questions about different scenarios, such as: B. to drivers with disabilities or open carrying permits.
Fulcher adds special cards based on the driver’s disability or a note informing officers that the driver is carrying a gun. This is also displayed where your documentation is kept during the stop. He recalls an incident in Charlotte in 2017 where a North Carolina State Trooper fatally shot and killed Daniel Harris who was not passing and took the soldier to his home when the shooting occurred.
CONNECTED: DA: No charges for state trooper who shot NC deaf men
Harris was later found deaf and witnesses stated that they may be trying to communicate with the soldier.
“It (Pullover Pal) would have worked 100% in this situation if he (Harris) had stopped and viewed the map showing that he was deaf,” explained Fulcher. “There was also an incident in Texas where a man had a gun and was shot while reaching for permission to show officers.”
Fulcher has reached out to local law enforcement agencies and even attended Citizen’s Law Enforcement Academy at the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office for a better understanding of what law enforcement agencies go through when policing in today’s world.
He was impressed with the efforts of the city and county, especially when the community met after George Floyd’s death last May. When asked what he thinks Pullover Pal will reach when it comes to changing minorities’ perspective with the police and vice versa, Fulcher just hopes it will be mentioned 50 to 60 years later.
“Who knows what will happen then, but hopefully things will go better with police interactions,” said Fulcher. “I hope to say that I was one of the people who made the change. I would like to be mentioned in 10 years,” he joked.
-USA Today contributed to this story-
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